Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Dogs and Disability

It happened a couple weeks ago. With a huge leap he landed right on my chest. At least the top half of him did. His owner was mortified. She quickly called him to heel but I asked her to just let him be. It had been a long time since I had a dog, a great big dog, comfortably standing on his back two feet and resting with his top too legs across my stomach and his paws resting on my chest. She relented and let him stay where he was. I got a great big heaping dose of doggy love. I'd tried petting him before but he was always just a tad out of reach. Now, he looked me right in the eye and let me rub his ears and scratch under his chin.

Then, I saw him again yesterday morning. Joe was bringing the car round and I didn't hear the dog get off the elevator. Another plop and he was back on my chest again. I grinned the biggest grin that I have. I chatted with him easily about his day and he eagerly let me know exactly where he wanted to be scratched. His human companion waited patiently aside and when he got down I thanked her for letting me have another moment. I explained that in a world of frustrations due to inaccessibility, it was terrific to have the occasional 'accessible dog moment' in my life.

She explained to me that her dog had learned, as she was very strict, that he is not to jump on people. But he sees me and he knows that there are different rules. She ;marvelled at how smart he was. I marvelled  at how the dog understood that in order to relate to someone in a wheelchair, he had to just do the same things but differently.

I've always thought that animals are the perfect trainers for how to interact with those of us with disabilities. Dogs don't bark louder cause they don't think we understand them. Cats are just as resentful at having to move for wheels as for feet. Instead, dogs figure that people who sit are equal to people who stand. And dogs in lobby's fill with excitement when they know that the big guy in the wheel chair means 'break the rules and hop on!'

All the way to work I refused to brush away the hair off my jacket. What the hell, if he can break a rule, so can I.

God, I love dogs.


rickismom said...

Cute story and a good message. But once a dog jumped on Ricki (when she was all of about 4 or 5), and nearly knocked her down. Needless to say, she is NOT too enthusiastic about dogs today--- (or at least not of great danes....)

nycivan said...

Thanks for sharing this moment of joy. I am a dog owner, although she is just 8lbs but she loves me no matter what I weigh. What a lovely neighbor you have.

Andrea S. said...

I once knew a woman with a speech impairment who had a dog that barked normally with everyone else but, with her, would "bark" with no voice! (By moving his jaw as if barking but without making the sound) Almost as if he was saying, "I notice you don't talk with your voice as much as other people so I can avoid using my voice with you too"!

J. said...

Great story!

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Animals do give us something special. This dog sounds lovely. My Dad loves to tell this story about my brother Gerry, who had Down Syndrome. Gerry loved animals and they returned the affection. So one day when Dad and Gerry were out together they encountered a man with a dog and while the man was explaining to Dad that the dog was not very friendly - that very same dog was sitting beside my brother tongue lolling, tail wagging, being petted and talked to. The man was amazed.
I myself am a cat fancier, but am allergic to them. God has a weird sense of humour sometimes. So we have 2 dogs and they are lovely. You are right about cats, Dave. They have the same attitude of aloofness for everyone - very egalitarian!
Its a snow day today in southern Ontario - enjoy! Stay warm and snug and safe!

Rachel said...

Dog: "It's my NEW BEST FRIEND! YAY!" :)

I have always loved animals, and in return, they love me. I live in a very dog-friendly town and there are dogs all over the place; even at the office-supply store I ran into a lovely big Dane who asked me for lots of scritches which I was more than happy to supply. Most businesses have dog treats on hand and distribute them with much affection. I meet lots of dogs outside the grocery store, though more in the summer.

I grew up with cats and love them, which I'd better as I have a Siamese overlady looking pleased on the back of the sofa right now. It's an entirely different relationship with dogs and it drives me a little batty when people directly compare the two; you can't, really, but for me the company of either is equally enjoyable.

Noddy said...

That's a lovely story.

Have you thought of perhaps having a service dog, one that could pick up things you drop and fetch things for you? Perhaps even help you balance when you must move from your wheelie to something else, or even to help when the wheelie gets stuck on a threshold or something?

I ask because I have a hearing assistance dog and he's provided a great deal of freedom for me in moving about. Hearing disabilities are invisible so people often don't know to allow for them. With my dog wearing his badge and vest, people realize I'm not being rude or stupid. Plus he's saved me some injuries and possibly my life a few times warning me of trucks backing up behind me. He also provides companionship and emotional support.

You sound as if having a service dog would benefit you on many levels.

Louna said...

What a lovely dog! It's great that you can have your dog-love moment once in a while.

miss kitten said...

i have fibromyalgia and diabetes. we had talked about a dog for some time, but Himself was worried about could i actually handle the physical care of one, since he works outside the home and travels for work and it would be all on me most of the time.

one day when i was perusing the petfinders website, i saw her. she had that look, the thousand yard stare, that said she was unhappy to the point of checking out. and it tore my heart up. i sweet-talked Himself into going over there, to the poodle rescue of houston, and "just looking". when i held her...i just KNEW.

it took me two full days of coaxing to get her to eat without me forcing her. she only weighs five pounds. five pounds of bouncy little poodle fluff, and that would be enough for me, but....

the other day my blood sugar dropped. badly. and she was jumping up on my chest and scratching at me and whimpering (she's normally a well-behaved lady of five years age) and was alerting me that something was NOT right.

who saved who's life? she's a rescued lifesaver. we wouldnt have her any other way (even if she does take up a large chunk of the bed at night!).

Anonymous said...

I love dogs, too.

Belinda said...

Well, I just loved "seeing" the dog jumping on you. As you know, we are the proud family of Molson, the overly enthusiastic therapy dog, who recently jumped into bed with a lady in a nursing home and frightened us both badly. I have not had the courage to take him back, in case we get dis-invited.:)

Kristin said...

Dogs are truly a blessing.